Can Craig Smith survive 2024 and 2025?

I think most of us were ready for a change when LK was fired. Some thought we had a shot at Alex Jensen or Jonny Bryant but I believed then and believe now that those guys and Andre Miller are pipe dreams. Even if they weren’t, while they may create some interest in old fans like me, they are virtually unknown to anyone under 40 and have no recruiting chops. None of them are Deion Sanders type personalities or names who will instantly attract portal guys and inject enthusiasm into the program. I also believe that with the Portal and NIL, fewer and fewer NBA coaches will have any interest in the college game unless it is simply to be paid a couple of million a year, guaranteed for 4 or 5 years. Specifically, with regard to Utah, why would any high level coach want to come here. The place is dead. My grandkids were in town this week (2 girls, 3 boys - from 5 to 10). We all went to the gymnastics meet for $5 a seat in the upper bowl. We did this the week after New Years as well. At the earlier meet, the upper bowl was about 2/3 full. Friday, the upper bowl was sold out, full of young families and kids. Utah basketball cannot give away upper bowl tickets let alone get $5 a ticket. My grandkids have a great time. We go early for face painting and other things, buy some popcorn and cotton candy and have a great time.

The administration needs to carefully study what gymnastics has done and figure a way to attract young families with kids to both men’s and women’s basketball games. It doesn’t hurt to have a team that is always one of the tops in the country and maybe that is what drives gymnastics and what lhurts men’s basketball.

So, how does Craig Smith keep his job after this year and moving forward?

Before Smith was hired, most of LK’s players were gone and most were leaving whether LK stayed or not. After Smith was hired, Pelle and Jones decided to leave. I get it. Jones dad was fired and Pelle had no relationship with Smith and a better opportunity. Smith was left with BC, Lahaut Thione, Jaxon Brenchly and Riley Battin. Hardly a strong hand. With a late start at recruiting Smith brought back Both Gach and got Gabe Madsen, Marco Anthony, Rollie Wooster and David Jenkins Jr. from the Portal. He was able to retain Lazar Stephanovic who had committed to LK. I cannot really criticize what he brought in given the late start.

His second recruiting class after year 1 consisted of Keita, Exacte, and Tarlac with pickups of Ben Carlson and Mike Saunders jr from the Portal while losing David Jenkins Jr. I think Keita and Exacte can play at this level. Carlson is a backup guy. Tarlac can’t play and who knows why Saunders and Jenkins did not play at the level they did at their prior stops. All in all, Keita and Exacte were pretty good signings. He did miss on the mission kid who signed with BYU, which was a big miss.

After year 2, his only HS guy was snatching Wahleen after his mission from BYU. I think Wahleen has potential and I think they should have played him more during the early season and not given any minutes to Tarlac. I think the idea was that he would redshirt, but injuries forced that change. Smith’s inability to sign any HS guys at the end of year 2 is troubling. He did bring in Deivon, Lovering, Ericson and Bajema. Deivon is a guy. Lovering and Bajema are backups at best and I don’t know why they got Ericson. Who knows whether the Turk who failed to complete whatever he was required to do is a guy or not. He lost Steph, which was a surprise to me.

So far this year he has two good early signing guys who will be going on missions, but we have no idea who else is on the radar.

I don’t think it is a good look to fire a guy after 3 years absent some type of scandal. I think Smith survives this year unless he loses 2 or 3 of Deivon, Keita, Exacte, Wooster and Madsen. I think he is gone if this happens even though I have no idea who would want to take the job. I think we all believed Burgess would be a shot in the arm, but can you promote and assistant who has been part of a disappointing staff? I don’t think so. It would be nice to retain Ben Carlson, Wahleen and Lovering, but those guys are backups.

To survive after next year, he needs an infusion of 2 or 3 real portal talents who have the athleticism it will take to survive the Big12 and a promising high school signee or 2. Another RM from BYU would be a plus.

This troubles me. I have always done what is required.


There are 5-6 meets a year. They’re always less than 2 hours. Because of the smaller amount of meets it’s far less expensive

One of the reasons we gave up our basketball tickets was the sheer daunting task of getting to the JMHC 18 times a year at all kinds of strange times and days.


Gymnastics has the ‘players’. MBB does not. Success breeds success. Smith has to get better players. HS, portal, whatever is needed. And then get them to gel. This isn’t a bad team, it’s just not a great team. And somehow change the culture to being road warriors, not worriers.


I can’t disagree with the main points of concern, but I have to wonder how much things would have changed if Exacte was healthy and we hit some damn free throws in multiple games. The difference between continuing to improve and flaming out is pretty narrow.

At this point, Rollie and Exacte with season ending injuries is too much for a moderately talented program trying to rise to tolerate.

Does anyone know what the NIL landscape is for MBB? That seems like the only realistic way, outside of getting a hot coach.

Even with a serious talent infusion, for a lot of schools - including Utah & most of the PAC and a lot of the Big-12 - college basketball is getting to be more like baseball. Plenty of losses mixes in with hopefully more wins. Look at Tad Boyle - he’s been at CU for a long time, has some nice talent, but if we hit some free throws we’re sort of at the same level as them.

Altman, Cronin, Bobby Hurley (lol), Wayne Tinkle, Jared Haas, Andy Enfield. Some have had nice success, most should be successful… many are getting a warmer seat.

It ain’t easy.


Firing him would be a disruption - good or bad. In the age of the Portal and NIL (and what appears to be annual free agency), how does one find 15 to 20 players of high talent who want to play in a place the NBAPA generally dislikes?

If we fire him, who they hire that can flip the table on the negative press and improve the fortunes of the program?

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I was on the Craig Smith is a mediocre hire train since it left the station.

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Need to offer all recruits seven figure salaries.

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Right on post. He needs to vastly improve his recruiting. Utes has more to offer than Wazzu or Utah St—but they can’t get the same talent.
Not sure if they can not evaluate the portal or if they just can not recruit any better than Bajema, Lovering & Ben Carlson. They were all back ups on other teams—why would be good enough to start here?
He needs to run off Tarlac & Erickson after the season. And it might help to fill the roster—13 not 12 so he can work around injuries.
Problem is what new coach can they bring in that can turn it around?? And if it all falls apart they may need a bigger curtain—close off the ends of the arena -if they tear it all down yet again.


I think the question is a bit premature, but among PAC coaches, Kyle Smith and Mark Madsen seem to be doing well, or lifting programs from a bad situation. One will be stuck in the PAC 2, the other will have more frequent flyer miles than anyone not named Jarod Haase. But let’s leave this speculation alone.

Again, the margin between success and failure is pretty thin. I was hoping for a top half finish in the PAC, but the weeks with projections of us solidly in the tourney became the poison of expectation unfulfilled, along with piss pour FT shooting and a couple of bad injuries.

I remain open to Craig Smith finding enough talent for us to be in the middle third of the B12. If we don’t find more talent and toughness, one year in the new league will make the question highly relevant.


A thought experiment for you. Have you ever considered how different history would have been had Majerus never recruited Andre Miller? Then take away Keith Van Horn. Everything else the same. He’d have been one of its winningest coaches, but not in the stratosphere. There would be no Final Four or Elite 8 memories.

Two players made that difference. Two players who nobody expected to be great when they came. And they could have been injured, gone somewhere else. We got Miller only because for a thin slice of time someone like him who bombed the ACT had to sit out a year and bigger schools were unwilling to take those guys. Also, he was just a football player until the last year of high school.

At our level, the margins are thin in basketball. Lots of contingencies. We aren’t UConn or Duke. Utah is isolated, small population, mostly white, majority Mormon, but basketball is an urban, global game with disproportionate peoples of color.

Being a basketball coach at Utah is hard. I think Smith needs more time. But he’s got to find a way to ramp up his recruiting or portal hauls of athletic and skilled players.

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At Utah, with its inherent challenges, including challenges attracting coaching candidates, you could say this about every hire and bat way over 50%. I’m not impressed.

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It’s below 50% now, closer to 30% in SLC. That’s still pretty high, of course.


Figure SL County is too big to be a rural area, but not big enough to have the amenities of a traditional urban area.

The plus side is if you can afford the plane tickets, travel here is easy.

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Also, I wonder if this team would have been something like 14-2 in the old WAC or MWC. I remember Majerus losing to Wake Forest and Tim Duncan at home, in the Wooden classic to teams from major conferences a couple of years. It was definitely different when we played more talented teams. Of course, like Smith, he always had less talent outside the old MWC and WAC. Utah was like Boise football under Chris Peterson. A lot of weak opponents and getting up for maybe one big pre-season game and the post-season.

I’m just saying we need to be realistic. There are countless schools with a lot more to work with than Utah in our same position and worse. I haven’t given up on Smith yet.

One important fact about Smith is unlike Krystkowiak he’s had success keeping promising players. He’s got a good nucleus for next year season if he keeps them. Let’s see what happens.


Really curious what amenities you think are missing?

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Well said.


I will try harder.

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I’ll just say that my wife and I are in Park City for a couple weeks before heading back to San Diego. I’m going to the senior day games for both women and men. The seniors will get my due respect, especially BC.